Campus News Health & Wellness

Niche librarian locates books around the globe

Susan Morris in front of the Main Library on North Campus. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Susan Morris had to quarantine library materials during the pandemic

Susan Morris occupies a niche corner of the library world. She is an interlibrary loan librarian, a kind of librarian between libraries. Morris and her team help UGA faculty and students receive critical research materials and books from libraries all over the world, and also facilitate the lending of UGA materials to other places.

“It’s sort of an oddball part of the library, but I like it,” said Morris, who has been a librarian for almost 40 years.

Many materials are now electronic resources like journals and articles, but there are still a lot of physical books that move back and forth between libraries. When the pandemic hit, libraries closed and mailrooms that support libraries weren’t able to send or receive any physical items. During this time, Morris was in contact with her counterparts at other libraries around the globe, discussing who was opening when and what was available where. “The interlibrary loan librarians are sort of a world unto ourselves,” said Morris.

As the pandemic continued, libraries started opening up and books began moving through the mail again. Using data from REALM (REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums) that assessed how materials could be handled safely, UGA instituted a four-day quarantine period for all incoming materials. “It made people feel more secure about COVID not flying all over the country,” said Morris.

Interlibrary Loan Librarian Susan Morris pulls books from the stacks in the Main Library. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Morris’ job is part detective and part conductor. “A lot of people say they want to become a librarian because they love to read, but it’s not about that really. It’s about hunting for information. You can find anything you want if you have the patience and wherewithal to look for it,” she said. “We can usually find where something exists. But whether the other library will lend it to us – that’s a whole different question.” Trickiest to locate are unique materials like items in a local history collection.

The conductor part of the job comes in with managing her team. “I’m coordinator of a group of unsung heroes,” she said. Morris knows all the parts of the job – from pulling a book from the stacks to handling an exorbitant copyright fee to finding a certain obscure material in Germany – and jumps in where needed.

Susan Morris working in the Main Library. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

In the past year, she often did her job from home because of the pandemic and a cancer diagnosis. During this time, her dog, her sole companion at home, also became ill. “It’s just been an insane year,” said Morris, who has been deemed cured. “But then you hear about other people and what’s happened with them, and, well, everything is relative.”

Today Morris is back in the library, happy to be in her little oddball spot, getting items to people who need them. “What do I love about my job?” she asked. “Everything.